« coffee | Main | youth »


i find that the most important thing is to share something early on.not a star sign.something personal.tell me something about your best mate at school.

I think great brainstorming is less about the new and more about practice , practice, practice... I think one starts to be a reasonably good facilitator after about 50 brainstorms.

Start with the group thinking about something completely ludicrous. Something impossible, that will never work, that there's no way in hell of it happening. Then figure out how you can make it happen.

New blood helps too. Get the janitor to chime in if you have to.

Try reading A Technique for Producting Ideas by James Webb Young. It's only 30-something pages, you could get through it in a half hour.

i found this a while ago on the APG website. pretty useful i think. (sorry for the length)

1. Prepare - even if it only going to be an hour-long session over the lunch break. Time spent up front will repay you in spades during the session.

So think carefully in advance about the following things:

2. Define the problem carefully and clearly and succinctly. Make sure you have the ‘right’ problem. Never use brainstorming to settle a dispute, it won’t.

If possible, get yourself a ‘problem owner’ – a full description of this useful concept is in Vincent Nolan’s book** – leaving you to get on with facilitating towards a solution.

3. Think carefully about casting – avoid unhelpful, cynical, hierarchical types who will be destructive to the mood.

4. Have some sort of schedule – however rough. Don’t forget to include breaks, which are crucial, and make them stimulating and pace changing (e.g. Send people out for a walk, preferably outside, and give them some unrelated task, that way they will also take their brain for a walk. Often when you stop thinking about things, that’s when the ideas come).

5. Think about refreshments – certain foods like spinach and walnuts are good sources of Omega-3 which aid memory and concentration, too much caffeine or alcohol before or during the session and it could all go horribly wrong!

6. Get your self an ‘ideas toolbox’ – there are so many different techniques and games out there that you can play. The more you have at your disposal, the more confident you will feel, the more flexible (and creative!) you can be during the session. Some of my favourites are:
- ‘In-out listening’ (Synectics™ technique – simplified description - let your mind drift in and out as the problem is being defined and write down whatever comes into your head, however silly it may seem. Use those words to trigger associations, make connections and build on them to suggest solutions)
- Brain dumps – everyone has something on their mind, be it an existing prejudice or idea or agenda - get it out early so you can move on
- Edward De Bono’s six coloured Thinking Hats***, a system of encouraging people into doing one sort of thinking at a time; be it emotional, rational, judgemental, upbeat/positive etc. Each hat represents a different mode and signals to the group to focus in that area to avoid confusion
- Excursions – there are myriad options, but an easy one is to get people to pretend they are some sort of animal, describe what their life is like and then suggest how that animal, or its characteristics might be applied to solving the problem.
- Collages or photo sorts. These get people thinking visually in terms of images and associations, instead of just using words all the time.
- Get physical. Whether it is team exercises or acting stuff out, get people moving around. It keeps them awake and stimulates the right and left side of the brain simultaneously.

7. Don’t forget to build – rarely does an idea come out fully formed, so let other people have a go at furthering it and see where it takes you before moving on.

8. Practice legible handwriting – obvious but crucial! Or appoint a scribe to keep track of everything. If you can’t read back your flip charts, and you can’t remember what was said, you have just wasted everybody’s time.

9. Have fun. Laughter is a great de-inhibitor and makes a conducive atmosphere for creativity.

10. er…that’s it. Send me your suggestions for Tip no. 10 - [email protected]

It's not up yet but over Xmas I hope to create a (free) website that will become a repository for facilitation skills and techniques.
If I can learn how to make a website it will be up in January.
I'll publicise it through my blog. Check back in while...

These are all great ideas. I'm in the process of building my toolbox and wanted to get some input. I wanted to start by asking fellow planners. My next step is to ask kindergarten teachers. Then counselors that work with Retirees.

We touched on this not too long ago. Our post is too long to re-post here. I hope some of these ideas help you reach the peak.


Sorry to join late.

Yes I have some brainstorming advice:


Seriously I wrote a feature article for the Financial Times back in 2002 based on two well established bits of academic psychology research which prove quite conclusively that brainstorming generates less good ideas than similar samples of individuals being given the same problem to think about on their own. Specifically brainstorming ideas are stereotypical (the process induces similar styles of brainwave/arousal to stress).

What to do instead? I surveyed a number of people in (real) creative industries such as entrepreneurs, scrptwriters, designers... The main answers were; get out of your usual environment, have fun, have a freeflowing but concentrated conversation and if you get stuck eat icecream.

Brainstorming is a client service gesture. Nothing more. Take them for lunch instead.


ps have a nice day
(lest Russell think I am becoming a nasty commenter - see post on blogging above)

Following on from John's post one thing I do is encourage people to think and have their ideas before coming along to the brainstorm. This allows for individual thinking but also tends to allow new ideas to come out at the session.


Just a word for Seno

My name is Marco I work in Italy, in a city called Reggio Emilia,
where lived a man called Loris Malaguzzi.

He changed the way to approach children education.
(you can read something about that in Goleman's "The Creative Spirit").

I think children are a sort of "way out" from ordinariety - they unconsciously have so much to teach us... I will try to learn something on january, when I will meet a teacher and a pedagogist,if you want me to ask something for you,
just let me know,



Hi Russel,
A good friend of mine is a professional brainstorm-coacher on all levels. He has just written a book on it, braintsorming techniques i.e, though unfortunately it's in Dutch for now.

However, why hesitate to contact him? http://brainssstorm.be/ The nice guys in Belgium are fluently tri-lingual :)


The comments to this entry are closed.